Monday 11 April 2011


(Duncan Jones, 2011)

Duncan Jones' second film as director shares it's major theme with Moon, his debut. Both films address identity and how we perceive it and it's constituent elements (memory, personality), amongst other things. Source Code is a decidedly high concept sci-fi thriller, but Jones' interest in this theme and insistence on the primacy of characterisation make it feel like something else. It handles what might be a problem - a ton of complex exposition - beautifully, drip-feeding the audience enough to keep them interested but never overloaded, and that allows character to shape the direction of the film. Here, in the interactions our hero enjoys with two women, learning about his own situation and feeling his way toward a solution, theme is gently nudged and prodded by the narrative. But more important are these people, and the way Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley subtly alter the focus of the film in the last act so that the whodunit at the core of the Mission is displaced by our hero's more personal journey. This makes the ending - which works, and then some - utterly satisfying, and even, perhaps, moving.
Gyllenhal is compelling in a lead demanding he shift modes regularly; he is confused, angry, romantic, focused and sad from one moment to the next, while Michelle Monaghan convinces effortlessly as a woman you could fall for in eight minutes, and Vera Farmiga does an awful lot with the thinnest part.
Jones' direction is slick and even somewhat anonymous; in visual terms this film could have been made by any one of a few dozen young Hollywood ex-advertising directors. But it's in the deeper tissue that we can see his influence, and its the deeper tissue that gives the film it's resonance. It finally addresses big subjects; love and death, the usual suspects, but this it does without pretension or compromise, and with a satisfying genre conclusion attached. This is not an easy thing for a sci-fi thriller to do, but this film makes it look easy.

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